1. Career Advice
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  3. A thorough guide on executive coaching for leaders
A thorough guide on executive coaching for leaders

A thorough guide on executive coaching for leaders

Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova

  • What is executive coaching?
  • Who needs executive coaching?
  • What are the benefits of executive coaching?
  • What to expect during the executive coaching process
  • How to find executive coaching services
  • Key takeaways

The process of professional growth is never-ending, even for those at the top. Executive coaching is a powerful tool that you can use to unlock your potential as a leader.

All professionals require guidance and mentoring, but this can be harder to come by as you move up the corporate ladder. By the time you’re promoted to an executive or leadership position, it can be extremely challenging to find people who understand the challenges you face. To put it bluntly, not many people ever get to that level. 

At the same time, your performance becomes increasingly important. As a leader, there are many who rely on you. You might even hold the success of your company in your hands. All of this means that you need to be at the top of your game. 

Many leaders find the solution to these problems in executive coaching. Executive coaches use their professional expertise to unlock the full potential of business leaders and develop their innate talents. In this blog, we’ll explore this concept more fully and explain why executive coaching might be just what you need in your professional life. We’ll cover the following topics:

  • What is executive coaching?

  • Who needs executive coaching?

  • What are the benefits of executive coaching?

  • What to expect during the executive coaching process

  • How to find executive coaching services

What is executive coaching?

Executive coaching is guided counseling for business leaders. It helps them develop their skills and reach their potential. Pretty simple right? Unfortunately, it often gets confused with other types of guidance. Before we go any further, it might be helpful to explain what makes executive coaching different:

  • It focuses on business and leadership. Unlike therapy or counseling, executive coaching focuses on the development of solid business skills. It’s not intended to help professionals confront personal or mental health challenges.

  • It involves an equal partnership. Unlike mentoring, executive coaching doesn’t involve a differential in authority. Executive coaches are independent professionals hired for their expertise rather than supervisors or bosses. 

  • It inspires change from within. Executive coaches aren’t there to tell their clients what to do. Instead, they ask questions and offer advice that helps their clients discover the potential within themselves.

Who needs executive coaching?

As the name would suggest, executive coaching is designed primarily for business leaders. This could include CEOs, CFOs, marketing executives, company vice presidents, or even senior managers. Independent business owners and entrepreneurs can also benefit from executive coaching. 

In most cases, executive coaches work with clients one-on-one. This ensures a personalized approach and often leads to optimal results. Sometimes, however, a company might bring in an executive coach to work with their entire C-suite. In these cases, the coach will usually conduct group sessions instead of one-on-one meetings. 

What are the benefits of executive coaching?

Executive coaching can have a wide variety of benefits for leaders of all types and can help empower executives on their career path. Here are just a few of the many advantages of hiring a coach:

1. Eliminate blind spots

Even if you’re your own worst critic, you have some blind spots. The best way to eliminate these is by getting a second opinion. If this sounds like a good idea, consider hiring an executive coach. While anyone can point out your flaws, these professionals know how to confront them constructively and uncover your potential. 

2. Develop hidden skills and potential

Even as a successful business leader, you may have some skills that you’re not aware of. As we mentioned above, executive coaches can help their clients identify blind spots, but not all of these will be negative. A good coach can help you identify the challenges you face with greater specificity and outline solutions. Once you start making progress, you may find yourself developing skills you never knew you had. 

3. Avoid isolation

As the saying goes, it’s lonely at the top. Many business executives find themselves increasingly isolated as they earn promotions. In some ways, this is unavoidable, since there are simply fewer employees at the top of any organization. On the other hand, you don’t need to go it alone.

A career coach may be just what you need if you're struggling with feelings of isolation. In your coaching sessions, you’ll be able to explain the challenges you face and discuss them with a peer who understands them. At the very least, you’ll have a confidant and a place where you can let your guard down. 

4. Enhance personal satisfaction

Although it might seem counterintuitive, decreased adversity doesn’t always lead to greater happiness. Some people need to confront and overcome challenges daily, and this is especially true with high-performing leaders. An executive coach can help you identify challenges and work towards overcoming them daily. This provides a feeling of progress and can seriously improve your experience at work. 

5. Strengthen your strengths

If you’ve risen to a leadership position within your company, you obviously have some serious talents. Although you might want a career coach to eliminate your weaknesses and blind spots, a good one can help you with your strengths as well. Many people neglect their existing skills, ensuring that they never reach their full potential. A career coach can keep you from resting on your laurels and help you become even better at what you already do well.  

6. Build better relationships

Effective leaders know how to create durable relationships with those around them. They inspire trust in subordinates and admiration in their peers. An executive coach can help you develop your interpersonal and leadership skills so that you become an asset to everyone in your orbit.

What to expect during the executive coaching process

While every coach is a bit different, most use the same suite of tools and techniques. Here’s a description of what you can expect if you hire an executive coach:

One-on-one meetings

Unless your company hires a group coach, you’ll most likely meet with your coach one-on-one. This is hugely beneficial, as it allows them to create a personalized improvement plan. A good executive coach will be able to hone in on your personality and work style and use techniques that match them. 

In-depth questions

As we mentioned before, a job coach isn’t there to tell you what to do. Instead of instruction, most coaches use probing questions to reveal your motivations, strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots. The purpose of these questions is to encourage critical thinking and approach problems from new perspectives. Sometimes a simple question will clarify something that you’ve been struggling with for months.

Critical thinking

Executive coaches aim to inspire change from within. In the best cases, leaders discover the solutions to their problems through self-examination and critical thought. A coach may encourage you to consider your work performance from different angles or pose challenges to get you to think outside the box. 

Metrics of success

Most executive and professional coaches use a system of metrics to gauge client progress. The exact techniques will vary, but the goal is to ensure constant and measurable improvement. If you’re a self-critical person, it can be challenging to see improvement. Measuring your progress is a good way to make it clear and undeniable. Additionally, it will be clear when you’re not meeting your full potential. 

Accountability and constant support

One of the most important aspects of executive coaching is accountability. No matter how you’re doing, your coach will be there to provide objective commentary. It’s often easier to achieve positive results if there’s someone there to push you toward excellence. 

That said, executive coaching isn’t about negative reinforcement. If you're struggling, your coach will be there to provide support and remind you of your talents. In both success and failure, it’s helpful to have someone by your side who’s rooting for you. 

How to find executive coaching services

If you’re lucky, your company may hire an executive coach to guide you, either individually or as part of a group. In most cases, however, locating a coach will be up to you. Fortunately, there are many ways to find qualified executive coaches without too much effort. 

You can start by speaking to the recruiters or talent acquisition specialists in your company. These individuals have a good grasp of what’s available and may have someone in mind. Alternatively, there are a wide variety of coaching platforms that connect executives with talented coaches. One of the best is the International Coaching Federation, which has a search tool for tested and credentialed coaches. The ICF also grants the following credentials that you can keep an eye out for:

  • Associate Credentialed Coach (ACC)

  • Professional Credentialed Coach (PCC)

  • Master Credentialed Coach (MCC)

It’s important to remember that not all coaches are right for every client, even if they have the right qualifications. Try to vet several potential coaches and make sure you speak to each of them individually before making a choice. Before you hire anyone, try to ask the following questions to find out whether they’re the right fit:

  • What is your specific area of expertise?

  • Do you have any references or former clients that I can use to verify your experience?

  • Describe your typical client.

  • How do you track and assimilate the newest trends in your industry?

  • How would you describe your training, education, and certifications?

Key takeaways

  1. Executive coaching is personalized guidance that helps business leaders unlock their full potential.

  2. Executive coaching can help you locate areas for improvement, enhance your performance, build new skills, create better relationships, avoid isolation, and become a better leader and businessperson.

  3. In most cases, you’ll meet with your coach one-on-one and follow a personalized improvement plan.

  4. If you’re looking for an executive coach, you can talk to other executives, contact your company’s talent division, or use an online talent agency that specializes in coaching.

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